Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company's founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong Kong on August 10, 2020.
Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company's founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong Kong on August 10, 2020.
Photo: AFP

China appears determined to enforce a new national security law and curb dissent in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. In recent days the country has cracked down with increasing vigour on those opposing the move.

What is the new law?

Hong Kong is a special administrative Region under the People's Republic of China. While the security law had been in the works for some time, the recent passage of a law whose details were not revealed until the last moment has caused widespread dissent.

Designed to curb opposition, the new law criminalises acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. While China argues that the law will ensure stability in the region, critics say that it will also curb freedom of speech, protests and the like.

What happened on Monday, August 10?

On Monday, two days after Chinese and Hong Kong officials shrugged off sanctions imposed on them by the US, China has announced unspecified sanctions against 11 US politicians (including senators) and heads of organizations promoting democratic causes. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday said the 11 had "performed badly" on issues concerning Hong Kong.

At the same time, leading independent media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily and Next Digital was arrested on Monday, and officials raided the headquarters of his Next Digital group and carted away boxes of what they said was evidence. Photos and videos posted by Hong Kong journalists show many security officials thronging the newsroom.

This is the first time the new law has been used against a media organisation. While details and the exact charges against Jimmy Lai remain clear, a South China Morning Post article says that he was arrested on suspicion of foreign collusion. The 71-year-old is an outspoken pro-democracy figure who regularly criticizes China's authoritarian rule and Hong Kong's government.

Hong Kong police said they arrested at least nine people between the ages of 23 and 72 on suspicion of violating the new security law, with offenses including collusion with a foreign country and conspiracy to defraud. They did not release the names of those arrested or provide further details of the charges.

Who has been arrested?

Nine people associated with the media have been arrested so far. Alongside Jimmy Lai, his two sons and several senior staff members have been arrested. Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung and CFO and COO Chow Tat-kuen have been arrested. Lai's top aide is being sought by the Hong Kong Police. He is out of the city at present.

Freelance scribe for a British media organisation, Wilson Li and Andy Li, who belongs to an election monitoring group have also been arrested.

What has been the reaction to Monday's events?

Reports continue to come in about the developing situation in Hong Kong. Going by social media posts from journalists, it seems to have drawn a mixed bag of reactions.

While pro-Beijing supporters attempted to take to the streets to celebrate, others were vocal in their criticism.

"Disappointed to see Jimmy Lai & other pro-democracy activists arrested, further eroding #HongKong’s freedom of the press, the rule of law, human rights, & democracy. #Taiwan along with democracies around the world will stand with #HKers who fight hard for values we all cherish," tweeted Tsai Ing-wen, the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

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